My friend Bill is a native of Jacksonville and knows where to find a good meal. Last year after polishing off some BBQ we discussed places to eat in Duval County. Checker Bar-B-Q was mentioned, and based upon his description of the restaurant, owner, and food I added it to my lists of places to visit. Recently I was in Duval County and after taking care of some business and we agreed to meet up at Checker for lunch.
Following Bill we wound our way through downtown Jacksonville, over a bridge, and towards Saint Augustine Road. The area south of San Marco was peppered by light industrial businesses including warehouses, auto repair shops, and a print shop. Checker Bar-B-Q shared a low slung building with a consignment shop. Large red letters spelled out the name of the business above the door while a simple paper sign advertised a fifteen piece shrimp meal for $8.97. A picture of a chef holding a plate of food was painted next to the door.
It was the height of the lunch rush, and parking was a premium in front of the light tan building. I hopped a small curb and made a space for myself between two large pickups. Opening the door I took a seat across from Bill at a rectangular table plastered with advertisements for all sorts of local services. A bright green wall with orange doors stood at the back. The interior was eclectically decorated with mismatched chairs, football memorabilia, and hand written signs. To the right was the buffet line and kitchen area manned by the person who I learned was the owner, Art. He had a high pitched squeaky voice and chatted with his staff and customers.
Checkers specializes in “cracker style cooking” which means most things are battered and fried or cooked in a pot with bacon. The lunch buffets offered on Wednesday (fried chicken) and Friday (fried seafood) are both accompanied with Southern style sides including mac and cheese and greens. A special seafood buffets is offered for supper on Friday and Saturday nights. On the day of my visit it was an off day for the buffet and I ordered from the regular menu. It offered ribs, pork sandwiches and seafood platters. At Bill’s recommendation I decided on the Trailer Trash Special. It consisted of a chopped pork (Halleluiah!) sandwich, fifteen fried shrimp, fried green onions, and French fries.
While waiting for our lunches a cook came around handing out fresh made Snickerdoodle bars. They were soft and had a good cinnamon flavor. After polishing off dessert, our lunches arrived. Stacked high on a simple foam plate was a meal that would make any cardiologist faint. A hamburger roll burst with pieces of chopped pork and was partially covered by the fried green tomatoes. Instead of fifteen shrimp two dozen littered the plate. A portion of roughly cut French fries anchored the back next to two small cups of ketchup and tartar sauce.
The fried shrimp were lightly breaded and excellent. The fried green tomatoes were crisp on the outside and nicely seasoned. The French fries were crisp, hot, and well salted. The only disappointment was the BBQ sandwich. The meat was tender, but did not have any smoked flavor. Despite this, my lunch was still very good and I enjoyed experiencing a place with some much character.
Checker Bar-B-Q is open for lunch from Tuesday – Friday from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Saturday from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. The restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday – Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. Reservations are recommended for the seafood buffet and can be made at (904) 398-9206. The restaurant can be found online at artofcrackercooking.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @CrackerCooking.
Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating: